Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. is progressing to be cleared for on-court contact within the next week, freeing a path for him to return to the lineup sometime in March, his agent, Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports, told ESPN on Sunday.
Porter underwent lumbar spine surgery three months ago, a procedure that has allowed him to return to the floor moving and shooting pain-free in recent weeks. Once Porter is cleared for contact, it's expected it'll be just a matter of a final ramp-up until his return in March.
The impact of a Porter return to the Nuggets (36-25), who've risen to sixth in the Western Conference without the forward and guard Jamal Murray, could be significant with Nikola Jokic chasing back-to-back MVP awards. There is still hope that Murray -- who suffered an ACL tear last season -- could make a return prior to the playoffs, too.
Porter, 23, averaged 19 points on 54% shooting, including 44.5% shooting from 3-point range. He was one of five players in the NBA to average 15 points on 50% shooting from the field and 40% from 3 for the 2020-21 season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
This season, struggling with the back injury, he had averaged only 9.9 points before playing his final game prior to surgery on Nov. 6.
Porter signed a five-year, $172.5 million contract extension in the offseason. This was his third back procedure since November 2017, in his freshman year at Missouri.